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Archives, Part Seven (November 4, 2008 to December 1, 2008)

For Other Bloggers (Baen+61) (November 4, 2008)

In an e-mail I received last Wednesday from the fabulous Publisher's Lunch, there was an interesting brief on a new concept being tested by Thomas Nelson, publishing of inspirational books, bibles, etc. Here's the article:

Thomas Nelson has launched a formal program to enroll interested bloggers and provide them with free review copies of "select titles" in exchange for the promise of a posting of a review of at least 200 words on a blog and at Amazon.com.


Nelson ceo and active blogger Mike Hyatt credits his own blog with inspiring the initiative. It "originally came from heightened interest on my blog, around two of our recent releases, Stephen Mansfield's The Faith of Barack Obama and Lynne Spears' Through the Storm. My readers, many of whom are active bloggers themselves, wanted to engage in the conversation about these products."


Hyatt adds, "My goal is to have a rich database of bloggers who are actively selecting Thomas Nelson products that they are interested in to read and review. The positive reviews will be a priceless word-of-mouth marketing vehicle and the negative reviews will be a useful tool in understanding why a product might not have sold at retail."


As any blogger would likely say, "Free stuff?" I immediately checked it out. The program sounded very interesting, with these details:

Any blogger can receive FREE copies of select Thomas Nelson products. In exchange, you must agree to read the book and post a 200-word review on your blog and on any consumer retail website.

  • Sign up using the online registration form at the bottom of this page.
  • You must include ALL the requested contact and mailing information. If your contact information changes at any time during your participation, you will need to sign in at http://brb.thomasnelson.com/blogger/profileand update your profile.
  • Once your application is approved, Thomas Nelson will send you a confirmation email to confirm your registration as a Book Review Blogger.
  • Visit http://brb.thomasnelson.com/and sign up for a Thomas Nelson product that you are interested in reviewing.
  • Please note that not all products are available for review and that some titles will only be available in limited quantities.
  • After you have requested a review copy, you will receive via email a PDF of the first two chapters and via US Mail a physical copy of the book.
  • Read the book and craft a 200-word review. The review can be positive or negative, it just needs to be based on the entire book.
  • Post your review on your blog and any consumer retail website (Amazon.com, barnesandnoble.com, booksamillion.com, borders.com, buy.com, christianbook.com, costco.com, lifeway.com, overstock.com, and walmart.com all have a section on each book’s product page dedicated to customer reviews).
  • Visit http://brb.thomasnelson.com/and update your account so we can link to your review. This will allow you to sign up for another title to review.
  • Thomas Nelson will contact you by email from time to time to inform you about different products available for review or sale, to check on the progress of your reviews, and to keep you abreast of Thomas Nelson Book Review Blogger news.
I filled out a short application, agreeing to join, since it is always nice to receive free books, and was able to choose a book here. There is only a small selection currently of six books (Holding Fast, Through the Storm, The Faith of Barack Obama, Reflections of God's Holy Land, Billy, and The Kingdom of the Occult) but I am certain these will change frequently to include the most recent releases. I happen to have chosen the last titles, which sounds as if it could be interesting. Hey, I don't usually read religious titles, but with what I have planned for my next few books, it is a topic I should become well-versed in. Either way, I encourage every blogger to take advantage of this program, and will make frequent references to it within this blog if all goes according to plan as I post my reviews (although I have yet to receive the book in question).

As to my writing: since this weekend was largely wasted on eating/passing out candy as well as approximately 24-30 hours worth of Halo 3 Living Dead games, not much got done. I failed to go to the library as I meant to, and despite having several interesting ideas for the book, did not put one of them to the page. So, as I am in a state of extreme self-loathing at the moment (come on, I think we are all there at one point or another) I have decided that for the present I must give all or nearly all of my time over to my writing. The ideas simply must get out of my head to give me some breathing room!


Obviously, if you haven't written a book, you don't understand this feeling. But let me be clear here: getting something out of your head that has been nagging you for years is simply one of the best feelings you could possibly have and its not paired with any feeling of remorse you may have should a loved one (though admittedly incredibly annoying one) pass. Not sure if I worded that correctly, but I think you know what I mean.


Oh, before I send off, BE SURE TO GO VOTE! Only 60.7% of the electorate voted in 2004, and by all means, that should be much higher this year, but make sure you do! If you vote for
McCain or Obama or Barr or Baldwin or McKinney... or even Nader... just go out and make sure you are counted.

Good luck voting, and as always, good luck getting published!


Good Morning (Baen+67) (November 10, 2008)

Well, how about that election?

Enough on that. It's been a fairly calm week, all in all; a lucid calm before the holiday storm as it were. Thanksgiving is coming up quickly, and department stores are already advertising for the holiday season. Since so many of them are predicting one of the worst retail environments in decades, be sure to be on the lookout for amazing sales, especially the day after turkey day - the so called "Black Friday."

K-Mart has already reinstated its layaway program for budgeted buyers, and I am certain other chains - especially Wal-Mart - will advertise the same shortly. At least the price of fuel has gone down so those of us in New England will not be forced to choose between heat or food throughout the winter; although according to the Saturday edition of the Connecticut Post (I can't seem to find the article online at the moment) heating oil companies are currently applying for their own government bailout because they are locked in for the winter at prices higher than they are now and consumers do not want to stick with the contract. Since when were contracts negotiable through government bailouts? People don't mind as long as they are saving money, but as soon as its the opposite, all hell breaks loose.

I suppose I cannot blame them, though. When all is said and done, every penny counts.

On the writing front, I have been doing fairly well, although there came a point toward the end of last week where I was having supreme difficulty conjuring up a particular scene. I believe what has happened is that I have become so adept at part of the writing process involved in this book that the style practically forbids me from returning to my previous abilities for the moment. This is rather vague, I know, but as anyone who has read or knows anything about the first novel - there are so few of you right now - my writing style alters depending on the character (the main character, Walt, thinks in very short, articulated sentences in a military manner, while Eddy, something of an antagonist, thinks in long, train-of-thought insights that ramble on for pages at a time [an exageration]). This book will be no different in that pattern, but I believe it will be most rewarding in the end.

So, I was having difficulty. I could not write the scene for the life of me. On Saturday, as my girlfriend lay sick and pale and I offered what little I could in the form of my company, I took a piece of paper from my notebook and at the top wrote where the main character was and at the bottom wrote where I need him to be at the end of the chapter. I sat there for some time, thinking of what I needed, and then simply began writing/scribbling lines. At about 180 words, the final product serves as a rather informative yet crude outline for the chapter, and I should be writing it shortly.

This week may however prove rather fruitless as I am being cornered with several work-related deadlines. I should make them in fine fashion, but if I feel pressured in the coming days, any time I would normally relegate to authorship will instead be sequestered to writing about the publishing business. Oh, the joys of 9 to 5.

Until next time, good luck getting published!

Pages written since last time: 15
Pages written so far: 113

Bruce Campbell (Baen+70) (November 13, 2008)

I had the pleasure of screening B-Movie film legend and current co-star of Burn Notice (No. 1 rated show on cable) Bruce Campbell's newest film, My Name is Bruce last night at the Temple Street Criterion Cinemas in New Haven. I had never been to the theatre, but it was a rather pleasant experience compared to several other I have been to: comfortable seats, no advertisements, and the chance to purchase alcohol (all of which were showcased before the film began).

Despite some technical difficulties (the projectionist played the reels in the wrong order, leaving the audience wondering why Campbell was suddenly in a completely different location without any thought), the movie, which details a fanboy's obsession with the celebrity and his hopes that Campbell is capable of defeating a demon in his home town, was rather enjoyable with several laughs. My girlfriend accompanied me, and despite only having seen Evil Dead, she laughed at precisely the right moments. Of course, it wouldn't be a spoof indie film if there were not references to his other films: Ellen Sandweiss, who played "Cheryl" in the original film, cameod as Campbell's ex-wife; Ted Raimi (Sam Raimi's brother), who was the original Shemp, played various roles admirably and with extreme comic effect (his Mario the painter was simply astounding, if not predictable); and Campbell himself (who directed the film) spun a yarn on his B-Movie status by first appearing in a sequel to a made-up (and apparently quite terrible) Cave Alien, he also threw a ball toward Evil Dead II in a trailor sequence that sees him going completely bonkers and downing every ounce of alcohol in sight (and there is quite a lot).

The movie, while very much an Indy film, hit the mark in all the right places and really presented itself as an homage to the fan, despite the rather blunt accusations toward fans found throughout the picture. The highlight of the night, however, came after the film, when Bruce Campbell himself walked into the theatre for a Q&A session with fans. There were a few good laughs, and the usual questions, but Bruce continued to present himself as the rather ingenius actor many of his fans know him to actually be; his B-Movie status simply a running joke at this point.

What gathered the most laughter came in the form of a question/request from an audience member, whose parents (apparent long-time Campbell fans) stayed home to watch Survivor - I refuse to link to the show - of all things. She asked if he would be willing to prank call them, which he gladly obliged to the audience's great amusement. Using a friend's phone (her own was dead, apparently) she dialed the number and, after the first attempt did not go through thanks to an area code problem, it rang through. Calmly and darkly, speaking into the microphone to a muffled audience, he said:

"Do you love your daughter? Too bad."

At which point he hung up. Expecting them to call back (she had dialed a landline without caller ID unfortunately), he held onto the phone for a moment, then returned the phone to the audience member. Unexpectedly, the parents had already dialed the police station when they received the call.

It was a most glamorous moment.

Responding to a question I posed (is there any piece of advice you can give to aspiring authors or artists?), and after making a rather humorous quip on authors ("Get another job? Write another job for yourself?") he did lay down some good advice: always maintain a producer title and always ensure you have creative control. Whether this is in regard to publishing a novel or creating a piece of film, or any other type of art, his advice was rather poignant: stay true to yourself.

For future reference, I am going to try and update the blog much more often with film reviews, book reviews, pieces of news, etc. The next week should bring a flurry of news in every respect, and I will be posting reviews for the many titles seen at right, though I may wait until I finish Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (which I unfortunately do not have). This should make for a much more engaging conversation between us, and I truly hope you enjoy it.

Until next time, good luck getting published!

Pages written since last time: 7
Pages written so far: 120

The Smashing Pumpkins (Baen+74) (November 17, 2008)

In regard to rock, there are only a handful of bands that epitomize the 90's scene, with Nirvana and Foo Fighters springing to mind almost immediately. The Smashing Pumpkins, and especially the band's lead singer, Billy Corgan, having been around for 20 years now, are surely there as well, and I had the distinct pleasure of watching them perform last night. While the band may have had several lineup changes in its history, and has been broken up a few times, the synergy apparent in their show is overwhelming.

Beginning promptly, a dark and subdued light show cast an eerie effect on the audience as a powerful bass slammed home. A few guitar riffs later and the unique tone of Corgan's tenor flew through the auditorium to wild cheers, though many could barely tell he was actually center stage. It wasn't until more than half an hour later, a faint light illuminating the singer, that he actually spoke to the audience, but the cheers continued. The show was full of remixes, acoustic variants, and crowd favorites, with my own, "Heavy Metal Machine," receiving a twenty minute redux complete with seemingly on-the-fly insults aimed toward both the audience and Corgan himself.

For $25 a ticket, I was treated to the show, which was so reminiscent of the grunge-rock heavy metal bands of the 1990's that I felt as if the band were ripped from another era, and which lasted nearly 3 hours. Three hours. I believe that it was because of the excessive rifts and extended variations on songs that I, and a vast majority of the audience based on the dimming cheers over the hours and steady auditorium departures, simply grew tired of the band and wondered when it would end. I didn't even stay for the group's encore (or double or triple encore, which they have been known to do) which sounded much like "Bullet With Butterfly Wings" when I could hear it from the parking lot. I work, and I have to get up at 5:30 on Monday mornings, and the concert hall was over an hour and a half away from my bed, so departing at 10:15 felt like the smart thing to do.

I won't complain, though, about the length, as a much shorter concert may have left me feeling underwhelmed. The Smashing Pumpkins came, and they rocked, and they didn't want to leave. They - more likely Billy Corgan - wanted to put on a show and they wanted to hear people cheer and laugh, with lyrics fully corresponding, such as the "Zero" redo:

Emptiness is loneliness, and loneliness is cleanliness

And cleanliness is godliness, and god is empty just like YOU!

which was greeted with great enthusiasm. Would I see them again? You bet. Would I make sure I drank a coffee and jumped into the mosh pit? Oh yes.

And in other news... driving through torrential rain on Monday morning, I visited my local library for the first time in nearly a year and (after supporting a charity through the purchase of a $1 cup of boiling coffee) looked through the Literary Market Place, which also happens to be available online. I rummaged through about forty pages of literary agents, and compiled a list of approximately 20 that seemed promising, although I have yet to look into them further. I may await Baen's response before continuing, although then again, perhaps not. We shall see.

There's also this matter, which I was notified of through the free and rather informative newsletter
Publisher's Lunch:

Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) and Penguin Group (USA) (NYSE: PSO) today announced the second annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, the international competition seeking the next popular novel. Writers around the world are encouraged to begin preparing their manuscripts for entry into the competition, which is scheduled to launch on Feb. 2, 2009.


Last year's inaugural Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition was enormously successful. Bill Loehfelm emerged as the 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Grand Prize Winner from a pool of 5,000 entrants. G. P. Putnam's Sons (a division of Penguin Group (USA)) published his novel, Fresh Kills, in August 2008 to critical acclaim. The Associated Press hailed the novel as "the finest crime fiction debut since Dennis Lehane burst on the scene ... not just a crime novel but a psychological novel of impressive subtlety and complexity." Loehfelm said, "The opportunity to enter this contest and share my manuscript with two publishing industry innovators like Penguin Group and Amazon was thrilling enough -- but to go from longtime struggling writer to nationally published author in nine months is an aspiring writer's dream."

Between Feb. 2 and Feb. 8, 2009, writers with an unpublished English-language novel manuscript can submit their work at www.amazon.com/abna. Up to 10,000 initial entries will be accepted, from which Amazon editors will select 2,000 to advance to the next round. Expert reviewers from Amazon will then review excerpts of these 2,000 entries and narrow the pool to 500 quarter-finalists. Reviewers from Publishers Weekly will then read, rate and review the full manuscripts, and 100 semi-finalists will be selected. Penguin editors will evaluate the manuscripts from this group of 100 and choose three finalists. A panel of esteemed publishing professionals -- including mega-bestselling authors Sue Grafton and Sue Monk Kidd, literary agent Barney Karpfinger and Penguin Press Editor-in-Chief Eamon Dolan -- will read and post their critiques of the top three manuscripts on www.amazon.com. Amazon customers will then have seven days to vote for the Grand Prize Winner. The winner will be announced on May 22, 2009, and will receive a publishing contract with Penguin, which includes a $25,000 advance.

"We are excited to once again team up with Penguin to help authors break through and to introduce millions of Amazon customers to great new books," said Jeff Belle, Amazon's vice president, U.S. Books. "Authors last year quickly formed one of the largest communities on Amazon.com around the contest and exchanged views on writing and publishing."

Message boards will again be available on www.amazon.com for Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award author participants to connect with one another and discuss the contest.

CreateSpace.com, part of the Amazon group of companies and a leader in self-publishing services, will again host the contest entry platform, which includes a community for authors that will help them get their entries ready by staying up to date on the contest, soliciting feedback from the community and accessing online content that may be helpful in preparing their entries.

Tim McCall, vice president, director of online sales and marketing, Penguin Group (USA), commented, "We're very happy to again team with Amazon for the second Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition, and are eager to seek out the fresh new literary talent we know exists. We were energized by the tremendous enthusiasm that grew out of the 2008 contest, and are honored to be involved with a growing community of talented writers. We are looking forward to expanding on the huge success and popularity of this contest in 2009."

More than 5,000 registrations were received for the 2008 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest, representing approximately 2,000 cities around the world and every state in the United States. Due to the tremendous response in 2008, up to 10,000 entries will be accepted for the 2009 contest. The contest will also take place over a shorter period of three and a half months, as opposed to six months last year.

The high caliber of the 2008 contest submissions resulted in the discovery of fresh new voices from among the Top 10 Finalists. Penguin Group (USA) has acquired four more Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contestants' novels: Bad Things Happen by Harry Dolan (Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, July 2009); The Wet Nurse's Tale by Erica Eisdorfer (G.P. Putnam's Sons, August 2009); The Butterflies of Grand Canyon by Margaret Erhard (Plume, January 2010); and Casting Off by Nicole Dickson (NAL, August 2009).

"We're excited to be working with both Amazon and Penguin on the second annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award," said Sara Nelson, editor-in-chief, Publishers Weekly. "As the foremost book review publication for the publishing industry, Publishers Weekly sets the standard in offering early insight on the work of new authors. We are very happy to be able to bring our experience and perspective to bear on the fresh talent that will emerge during the 2009 competition."

For complete terms and conditions for the 2009 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award as well as more information about the contest, please visit www.amazon.com/abna. For more information on the CreateSpace self-publishing service or to visit the CreateSpace Community, please visit www.createspace.com.

I invite everyone to submit to this, although last year's winner received poor sales in the retail market. Either way, it is a nice way to penetrate a difficult market, and an excellent opportunity all around (especially the $25,000 advance). Be sure to mark your calendar (it has already been targeted as my Draft Complete date for Novel 2, though whether this is met is still rather uncertain).

Until next time, good luck getting published!


P.S. I wrote nothing since last Thursday. Tsk on me.


Reviews (Baen+81) UPDATED 12/3 (December 1, 2008)

Judging by the number of hits I've already gotten today, I assume most people have realized that I typically write something on Monday morning. Well, I was a bit busy this morning, so here I am during my lunch break. Now that Thanksgiving is over and everyone returns to their normal schedule for a few weeks, I am going to live up to my word of writing reviews for the many books I have read since my last review. We'll follow the same format as before - the "Add a Book" feature on blog.com is terrible - and go all the way through the last Harry Potter title.

This may take some time, so please be sure to keep checking over the next few days. When all of the reviews are finished, I will write further about my own publishing activities (what little there are).

Practical Homicide Investigation, Fourth Edition by Vernon J. Geberth (9.2/10)

I've discussed the merits of this title extensively in previous posts, but I cannot stress enough how helpful this title came to be as I wrote my second novel. The book is incredibly detailed, offering everything from identification of proper techniques and forms (what they look like and how to fill them out) to deconstructing a crime scene. Everything regarding a homicide was covered, and if you believe you know everything from CSI, you should realize that one of the author's chief concerns was often discrediting the show and blaming it for the increased difficulty in apprehending suspects.

The one fault I have with the text is somewhat poor editing, which is treated by the author has having been done on purpose. There are sections of the text that are repeated, verbatim, in other areas as if the section were moved to better correspond to the flow of the chapter but never erased. Geberth says this was a function of making readers better understand what was being stated, but it didn't feel that way for me. Still, the book was informative, and a must-own for any writer interested in accurately depicting a homicide.

Vox by Nicholson Baker (8.6/10)

I read this title in a matter of hours, not only because of the simplistic writing technique, but because I could barely find it in myself to put it down. Written without chapter breaking points, the book is a novella-length dialogue between two lonely strangers who call a dating hotline. There are a few "he said" "she said" moments, but very few and far between, with everything gathered through their conversation alone. Though in the wrong hands this technique could drive away readers, Baker uses it to captivate and draw the reader into the conversation. To say that the text doesn't excite, in more ways than one, would be a disservice to the author as up to the very last page, when the two strangers reach a culmination in their dialogue and meander into the awkward downtime that follows, I wanted little more than to read the book over.

Keep in mind, however, that this book isn't for everyone: the dialogue-only technique can be strangling for some readers, and in no way should this be considered "light reading" for anyone younger than their teenage years. Of course, when teenagers do read this, I wouldn't be surprised if the urge to explore beyond the normal reaches of their room reaches a breaking crescendo.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks (9.3/10)
 

While I have always shown a fondness for zombie films and books - 28 Days Later is truly epic - and I plan on writing my own in due time (check back around Book 5), Max Brooks took this title to another level following the success of his Zombie Survival Guide. Following the conclusion of the Zombie War, the piece follows like a well-edited war documentary: the narrator interviews survivors from a multitude of locations to draw the reader into a deeper understanding of the horrors within a zombie world. Rather than employing a passive narration, it is the unique voice of each character that pushes this title to new levels, leaving the darkest sections vague and obscure like any person accustomed to war would keep them.

There is such depth, though, to his imagination that it is almost staggering to question how long Brooks sat in development of his zombie world. The varying responses by governments, the responses by different citizens, or even the effects of weather and climate on zombies are all explored to full, yet sometimes questionable, understanding. My personal favorite: the "Lobo," a combination shovel and battle-axe put to great use throughout the novel. It is one of but many ingenius concepts envisioned by Brooks in his personal post-apocalyptic world - one that everyone should explore.

Make Love the Bruce Campbell Way by Bruce Campbell (8.2/10)

As anyone who knows me or has read previous entries of my blog knows, I absolutely love Bruce Campbell. His dry wit and insane comedic B-Movie skills entertain me to no end, and his first book, If Chins Could Kill, earned a respectable 8.5 in my previous review. While his writing skills may not be the best, what comedy he possesses translates well onto the written page, and any fan of his movies will likely find the books amusing as well. Unfortunately, this second outting was not nearly as fulfilling as the first.

Campbell tries his luck at a work of fiction this time, following his actions as his B-Movie status ruins A-listers and nearly destroys Hollywood. It's funny, especially the few sections wherein he fights Richard Gere all for show, but it's been done before. While Chins provided a nice look at the man in the form of an autobiography, this title is one that will likely end in obscurity along with other comedic outtings. I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure if anyone outside his loyal followers would.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone; the Chamber of Secrets, and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling (7.6/10)

I've lumped the first three books of Rowling's epic together for a good reason: they're not very good. Full of wonderful ideas (magical mirrors, animagus, talking spiders, flying cars, etc.), the books seem incredibly full of promise but never quite deliver. It becomes a problem as so many things are occurring one after the other: there is little to no character development across the first three titles aside from the lonely mutterings of Harry and his ever-increasing anger. This is all due to Rowling's need to go from one event to the next with no bridge. These are very much kid's books.

The writing for these three is also incredibly subpar, with every page of dialogue replete with "Harry said," "Ron said," "Hermione said," and "Hagrid said." It wasn't until the second or third book that she even figured out a way to say "said" differently. And, back to the point of them being children's books through and through, the first two titles especially are almost typical "Happily Ever After" endings, though the words are never spoken. Harry's house comes out in first place, he is the best Quidditch player ever, etc. If not for how much he loathed going home to his Aunt and Uncle's, there would be no further conflict at all in these stories. Unfortunately, these must be plowed through - easily done, as they are quite short compared to the latter books of the series - to appreciate what comes later, and believe me, it is worth the trouble.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (8.3/10)

There was marked improvement between Prisoner and Goblet from both a writing perspective as well as plot. For one, the ending actually left me wanting more and I was really quite surprised at the turn of events, which I had not been as much in the previous books (the DAtDA gimmick grew tiresome, though it is still exploited here). Rowling learned how to have her characters discuss something without having to point out who said what repeatedly, and she really flew the character development into high gear.

Unfortunately, the book felt far too long at 734 pages, and though it is not the longest of the seven, it managed to drag quite a bit in the first act. I point this out mostly as a difference between this and the first three, where nearly every page detailed some spectacle, though I was not entirely put off by the change of pace. It was nice to see that elements introduced in the earlier books played a role - specifically Moaning Myrtle and Dobby - but it was with this title that Rowling seemed to finally understand her endgame. A proper step in the right direction.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix; and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (9.4/10)

Like the first three books in the series, I've lumped books 5 and 6 into one review because I felt their writing styles were very similar and their plots driving toward the same end. While Goblet introduced the reader to Voldemort officially, these two show both his rise to power and the rise of the resistance. Rowling herself is in prime form, though I feel that this was more the work of a team of outstanding editors than the writer herself, as the style is completely different than her previous offerings. Gone are the "he said" "she said" moments, to be replaced by words one would never expect from the writer (I joke that she likely had a "Word a Day" calendar at her desk as she wrote the two) and an increased emphasis on character development.

Both titles are distinguishable due to their climactic deaths that both took tolls on the teenage Potter, especially as his teen-angst continues to grow. The growing relationship he had with Ginny was also a good change for him, though the relationship's end toward Prince's conclusion felt a bit hasty - he never does seem to quite have a way with girls, except for Luna, who doesn't quite fit the bill of a romantic. Nonetheless, I finished both books incredibly looking forward to the next, craving answers, and wondering what could possibly happen in the next few pages... I now understand how terrible the wait between books 6 and 7 must have been and why Hallows became the bestseller it was.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling (9.2/10)

Though I read another book between HP 6 and 7, I felt that I should simply finish the series in order for your benefit. So... honestly? I have mixed feelings about the final chapter of Harry Potter's life. While the writing may be superb, the conclusion left me wanting, as I felt that many questions were left unanswered and many important events were simply ommitted. For instance, while all of the wizard world are spent worrying/dying/fighting, Harry spends a large part of the book sitting in a tent. A very large part of the book. Why? Because he is hiding and trying to figure out how to find horcruxes, which is where the cliffhanger in part 6 left the reader last.

The ending, while leaving me fairly fulfilled, left me perplexed: did the reason Harry Potter lived really make sense? I think not. It was a bit much, in my opinion. Also, the characters - mighty important ones at that - that died never felt like they were given the proper death, with two exceptions being the first and the one following the escape from Malfoy manor. But the end battle? After all the deaths ("over fifty"), people are going to be joyously cheering, without even a hint of remorse? Really? It was a bit of a letdown considering the ferocity of the previous two titles... but at least Neville finally got his chance to shine. Will we see more Harry Potter someday? Well... I suppose that may depend on sales of The Tales of Beedle the Bard and whether or not her followers will continue. I doubt that when she says the tale is finished, it truly is... because, after all, money is money.

The Ten Cent Plague: The Great Comic Book Scare and How it Changed America by David Hajdu (8.9/10)

It should be of no surprise that I thoroughly love comic books (expect graphic novel reviews to come in shortly), so having the chance to learn more about the history of the format left me quite enthralled. I had heard only horror stories about this before, as it has come up at conventions, etc. in regard to how highly prized surviving comics of this period are, but this title delivered. I learned about the fledgling format, how it changed dramatically as the country shifted, how it became a target, and how children, initially prone to being amused by the new 10 cent oddity, turned against it to censor the industry right after fighting against such censorship in World War II.

There were millions of copies of a single comic published in the fifties. Now there are, at max, maybe a few hundred thousand. It's quite amazing to see how focused politicians became when something new threatened their way of life, and the parallels between comics and videogames are easy to distinguish. However, the book never seemed to deliver on the "How it Changed America" part. The scare was well developed, well documented, and well discussed, but what was the effect? That a lot of people were put out of work? The Comic Code was established? Okay... the conclusion just ended vaguely, as if there should have been more to it. Nevertheless, if you're interested in the comic medium, give this book a read, it may surprise you.

Wooh. That was a lot of reviews. Following this, I'm going to only keep the last 4 titles I've read, plus my current book, listed in the sidebar, as I'll be reviewing every title as I finish it in its own entry. I will be back tomorrow to discuss other things... but who's counting?
 

Until next time, good luck getting published!

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